A poem by Chris Raetschus

 
June 1968

I bring him groceries and news.
“Like the Red Cross,” he says.
I smile, hand him tea, sliced cake,
watch him stir his memories in the mug.

Then he tells me, as if I have never
heard it before, of the Somme ,
of his friend Jack, how he lay
below the ground, how he saw him shot.

I have seen the flow of his blood,
his shape on the ground.
I know the blue of his eyes, the paleness
of his skin, the name of his mother.

Trenches are as familiar to me
as the veins on the inside of my arm.
I can hear the sounds. Say it quietly,
Somme . It is like silence after the gun.

I pour more tea, ask him if he has heard
Bobby Kennedy is dead. He says
I have told him before and I try to explain
it is not Jack, but his brother.

I count the silence between us
by the tick of the clock, watch him
clutch the mug with his old man’s hands,
liver-spotted, veins bulging. He stirs.

“He was a good man, Jack”, he says,
“a good man, died of two shots to the head”.
And I think I have heard this story before.
I have heard this story before.
 
(first published 2007, Orbis Quarterly International Literary Journal)
 
 
Chris Raetschus is from Newport in South Wales. After a crack at other places, she now lives in Northumberland.

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